Posts Tagged: the register


1
Feb 13

Source: Washington Post Also Broadly Infiltrated By Chinese Hackers in 2012

The Washington Post was among several major U.S. newspapers that spent much of 2012 trying to untangle its newsroom computer networks from a Web of malicious software thought to have been planted by Chinese cyberspies, according to a former information technology employee at the paper.

twpOn Jan. 30, The New York Times disclosed that Chinese hackers had persistently attacked the Gray Lady, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees. The Times said that the timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.

The following day, The Wall Street Journal ran a story documenting similar incursions on their network. Now, a former Post employee is coming forward with information suggesting that Chinese hacker groups had broadly compromised computer systems within the Post’s newsroom and other operations throughout 2012.

According to a former Washington Post information technology employee who helped respond to the break-in, attackers compromised at least three servers and a multitude of desktops, installing malicious software that allowed the perpetrators to maintain access to the machines and the network.

“They transmitted all domain information (usernames and passwords),” the former Post employee said on condition of anonymity. ” We spent the better half of 2012 chasing down compromised PCs and servers.  [It] all pointed to being hacked by the Chinese. They had the ability to get around to different servers and hide their tracks. They seemed to have the ability to do anything they wanted on the network.

The Post has declined to comment on the source’s claims, saying through a spokesman that “we have nothing to share at this time.” But according to my source, the paper brought in several computer forensics firms – led by Alexandria, Va. based Mandiant - to help diagnose the extent of the compromises and to evict the intruders from the network. Mandiant declined to comment for this story.

Update, Feb. 2, 7:42 a.m. ET: The Post has published its own story confirming my source’s claims.

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30
Aug 12

Security Fix for Critical Java Flaw Released

Oracle has issued an urgent update to close a dangerous security hole in its Java software that attackers have been using to deploy malicious software. The patch comes amid revelations that Oracle was notified in April about this vulnerability and a number other other potentially unpatched Java flaws.

The patch fixes a critical flaw in the latest version of Java 7 that is now being widely exploited. Users with vulnerable versions of Java installed can have malware silently planted on their systems just by browsing to a hacked or malicious Web site.

The update brings Java 7 to Update 7, and appears to fix the flaw being exploited and several other security holes. Oracle also released a security update for systems running Java 6, which brings that version to Java 6 Update 35.

Today’s patches are emergency, out-of-schedule updates for Oracle, which previously was not planning to release security updates for Java until October. Although it may appear that Oracle responded swiftly to the discovery of extremely dangerous flaws in its software, Security Explorations — a research firm from Poland — says it alerted Oracle about this vulnerability and 30 others back in April. It’s not yet clear how many of those vulnerabilities were patched in this release.

“We … expected that the most serious of them would be fixed by June 2012 Java CPU,” said Security Explorations CEO and founder Adam Gowdiak told The Register’s Neil McAllister. “But it didn’t happen and Oracle left many issues unpatched with plans to address them in the next Java [updates].”

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15
Dec 10

Fallout from Recent Spear Phishing Attacks?

McDonald’s and Walgreens this week revealed that data breaches at partner marketing firms had exposed customer information. There has been a great deal of media coverage treating these and other similar cases as isolated incidents, but all signs indicate they are directly tied to a spate of “spear phishing” attacks against e-mail marketing firms that have siphoned customer data from more than 100 companies in the past few months.

On Nov. 24, I published an investigative piece that said criminals were conducting complex, targeted e-mail attacks against employees at more than 100 e-mail service providers (ESPs) over the past several months in a bid to hijack computers at companies that market directly to customers of some of the world’s largest corporations. From that story:

“The attacks are a textbook example of how organized thieves can abuse trust relationships between companies to access important resources that are then recycled in future attacks. According to multiple sources, the so-called “spear phishing” attacks in this fraud campaign arrived as virus-laden e-mails addressing ESP employees by name, and many cases included the name of the ESP in the body of the message.”

Artist haven deviantART also disclosed this week that its e-mail database — including 13 million addresses — had been hacked. deviantART blamed the breach on SilverPop Systems Inc., an e-mail marketing firm with whom it partners.

McDonald’s said its data spill was due to hacked computer systems operated by an e-mail database management firm hired by its longtime business partner Arc Worldwide, a marketing services arm of advertising firm Leo Burnett. Contacted by phone, Arc Worldwide President William Rosen referred all questions to another employee, who declined to return calls seeking comment.

Walgreens didn’t name the source of the breach, but said it was due to “unauthorized access to an email list of customers who receive special offers and newsletters from us. As a result, it is possible you may have received some spam email messages asking you to go to another site and enter personal data.” Interestingly, Arc Worldwide stated in a July 27, 2009 press release that Walgreens had chosen it as the promotion marketing agency of record.

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27
Oct 10

Koobface Worm Targets Java on Mac OS X

A new version of the infamous Koobface worm designed to attack Mac OS X computers is spreading through Facebook and other social networking sites, security experts warn.

Security software maker Intego says this Mac OS X version of the Koobface worm is being served as part of a multi-platform attack that uses a malicious Java applet to attack users. According to Intego, the applet includes a prompt to install the malicious software:

Intego notes that if the download is allowed, “it runs a local web server and an IRC server, acts as part of a botnet, acts as a DNS changer, and can activate a number of other functions, either through files initially installed or other files downloaded subsequently. It spreads by posting messages on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, usually trying to get people to click a link to view some sort of video.”

SecureMac also has a writeup on what appears to be the same threat, which it calls OSX.Boonana.a. SecureMac says that “there have been reports of similar behavior in recent trojan horses targeting Microsoft Windows, but they have not included cross-platform capabilities until now.”

It is not surprising that attackers would begin leveraging Java to attack Mac users with threats that have traditionally only menaced Windows users. My research shows that Java is now the leading vector of attacks against Windows systems, findings that recently were buttressed by oodles of attack data released by Microsoft. Also, Java was designed to be a cross-platform technology that would allow applications to run seamlessly regardless of the operating system relied upon by the user. It makes sense for attackers to consider Java as a platform-agnostic vehicle for delivering platform-specific malicious software.

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13
Oct 10

Pill Gang Used Microsoft’s Network in Attack on KrebsOnSecurity.com

An organized cyber crime gang known for aggressively pushing male enhancement drugs and other knockoff pharmaceuticals used Internet addresses belonging to Microsoft as part of a massive denial-of-service attack against KrebsOnSecurity.com late last month.

The attack on my Web site happened on Sept. 23, roughly 24 hours after I published a story about a criminal online service that brazenly sold stolen credit card numbers for less than $2 each (see: I’ll Take Two MasterCards and a Visa, Please). That story got picked up by BoingBoing, Gizmodo, NPR and a variety of other sites, public attention that no doubt played a part in the near-immediate suspension of that criminal Web site.

At first, it wasn’t clear what was behind the attack, which at one point caused a flood of traffic averaging 2.3 gigabits of junk data per second (see graph above). Not long after the attack ended, I heard from Raymond Dijkxhoorn and Jeff Chan, co-founders of SURBL, which maintains a list of Web sites that have appeared in spam. Chan sent me a message saying he had tracked the attack back to several Internet addresses, including at least one that appeared to be located on Microsoft’s network — 131.107.202.197.

According to SURBL, the culprits were botnets under the thumb of “the usual Russian pill gangs”: Dozens of domains that resolve(d) to online pharmacy sites — including bridgetthefidget.com, crazygraze.com, firstgang.com, triplefixes.com and philsgangdirect.com — were using a compromised machine at that Microsoft address as a domain name server.

The attackers then told machines they controlled to access a number of non-existent pages at sites that were pointing to the Internet address my hosting provider has assigned to KrebsOnSecurity.com (94.228.133.16). This forced several hundred or thousand machines to direct their traffic at my site, all in an attempt to prevent legitimate visitors from visiting it.

For example, the attack packets included DNS for false requests such as:

mzkzalczdznzjzfbszvzazd.jumpgirlsaloud.nl A 94.228.133.163

sdfsdfsdfsdfsdffbszvzazd.youralveolarbone.nl A 94.228.133.163

zzncmzkzalczdznzjzfbszvzazd.cheapxenonbulbs.com A 94.228.133.163

zzncmzkzalczdznzjzfbszvzazd.expletivedirect.com A 94.228.133.163

I found the unusual method of attack interesting because it called attention to a significant amount of infrastructure used by the bad guys. For all I know, this may have been intentional, either to let me know who was responsible, or to make me think I knew who was responsible.

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12
Jan 10

The Wire

A periodic pointer to some of the more interesting and newsworthy security news stories. In no particular order:

Proof-of-concept for Mac OS X systems Released
Possible Malicious Apps for Google’s Android Phone
Online Gaming Exec. Sentenced to 33 Months
‘Massive Cybercrime Conspiracy’

Read after the jump for summaries and links to more information.

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